Doctors working in the first wave of the pandemic saw a decline in their mental health, with some who contracted Covid-19 feeling guilty over fears they might pass it on.
A new study, titled 'We All Really Need to Just Take a Breath' was written by a six-strong team of researchers from the Royal College of Physicians, the DCU Business School, the School of Medicine at UCD, and Temple Street Children's Hospital.
As the Irish Examiner reports, the study is the account of 48 hospital doctors who worked in Ireland during the first wave of the pandemic from March-May 2020 who were asked about their wellbeing.
It found that “despite the risks of contracting Covid‐19, many doctors saw some improvements to their physical wellbeing in the first wave of the pandemic.
“However, most also experienced a decline in their mental wellbeing due to anxiety, emotional exhaustion, guilt, isolation and poor support.”
Stress of the pandemic
Most of those interviewed for the study were women, and respondents worked across different healthcare areas. Some reported being adrenalised by the onset of the pandemic, only for weariness to follow.
One respondent said: “We’ve come down from the adrenaline rush of Covid, we all really need to just take a breath, recuperate, regain our energy”.
Another said of swabbing an elderly patient: “You feel like a monster, an elderly person begging you not to swab them. Really, it was a little harrowing.”
Another respondent said: “I turned to chocolate and wine in the early days to cope … I’ve put on a lot of weight, and I’m really conscious of that, actually.”
She paid for private therapy to deal with the stress of the pandemic and added: “Our wellbeing is always put on the back burner. It’s really frustrating and upsetting.”
A senior house officer said: “Stress eating became a massive thing. Drinking half a bottle of wine a night."
The study concluded that doctors shoulder a double burden in events like Covid‐19, facing the same societal changes and emotional stressors as everyone, alongside greater risk of exposure and additional work pressures."